In January, 1972, Aretha Franklin was a major star who came back to her roots by singing gospel in a baptist church in Los Angeles. This two-night concert would be turned into a film by Sydney Pollack, but unfortunately his lack of experience when it came to making concert movies resulted in technical failure. The film was shelved for over 40 years until new technology made it possible to sync audio and visuals properly. What we have now is a concert movie that shows Franklin and the Southern California Community Choir at their very best. A sweaty, spiritual and intense experience that also offers engaging appearances by the ”King of Gospel”, James Cleveland, and Franklin’s father, the pastor with the ”million-dollar voice”.
2019-U.S. 89 min. Color. Produced by Joe Boyd, Alan Elliott, Rob Johnson, Chiemi Karasawa, Spike Lee, Sabrina V. Owens, Angie Seegers, Tirrell D. Whittley, Joseph Woolf. Editing: Jeff Buchanan.
Trivia: The project was marred by lawsuits and couldn’t be released until after Franklin’s death; the film lacks a directing credit, but co-producer Elliott gets a ”realized by” credit. Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts can be seen in the audience.
Last word: “In 2007, I went to Sydney Pollack and said we should try and do this. There may be a fix. No one had told me about the audio problem. He told me it was a problem with Aretha Franklin’s contract. I took him at his word, and we had a bunch of theoretical conversations about how to make this movie. We never got to the actual footage. He got very sick with pancreatic cancer and said to me at a certain point, ‘I think you know this movie better than I do, and I’m going to have Warner Bros. let you finish it.’ It was right before he died.” (Elliott, MovieMaker)
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